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Mrauk U - Kingdom of Arkan

 

The abandoned city and hundreds of temples and pagodas at Mrauk U is situated in northern Rakhine State hilltops and form an awe-inspiring sight, whilst providing an experience quite unlike anything else in Myanmar.

From the 15th to 18th centuries, Mrauk U was the capital of a mighty Arakan kingdom, when it enjoyed great wealth and was an important commercial port, frequently visited by foreign traders (including Portuguese and Dutch), and this is reflected in the grandeur and scope of the structures dotted around its vicinity. A visitor described it as one of the richest cities in Asia, and as a result it was coveted by many surrounding kingdoms. In 1784 the Arakanese kingdom was taken over by the Burmese King Bodawpaya. In the wake of the first Anglo-Burmese war in 1826, and the subsequent founding of Sittwe by the British as an administrative centre, Mrauk U's oblivion became complete. Today there are few visible remains of its greatness, but Mrauk U has charm, with significant ruins, local markets, wooden houses and friendly people. Some of the ruins can be visited on foot from the town, whilst others require a bicycle or vehicle.

HOW TO GET THERE

There are daily flights from Yangon to Sittwe, from there, continue to Mrauk U by car or by boat along the Kaladan River for about 4 – 6 hours. There are also direct bus to Sittwe from Yangon and Mandalay.

ATTRACTIONS
Ruin Palace Site

Before visiting any other place in Mrauk U priority should be given to the ruins of the inner palace city where the Royal palace once stood magnificently. The place is surrounded by three wall encirclements. The area of the whole palace was 1.2 square miles and the walls were originally made of brick. King Mong Ba Gree reinforced the palace walls with a new structure of stone in 1531. From here all the 48 Kings of the Mrauk U Dynasty reigned with pomp and grandeur, making the country as prosperous as any other city of that era.

Shittaung Pagoda and Pillar

Shitthaung or "temple of the 80,000 Buddhas" located about half a mile to the north of the palace site was built by one of the most powerful kings of the Mrauk U Dynasty, called by the people, Minbargyi, according to records on inscriptions as King Minbin who reigned from 1513 to 1553. The king built this fortress-temple after repulsing a Portuguese attack on the City of Mrauk U.

The Shittaung Pillar is well-known and it is located just on the northern entrance of the Shittaung Pagoda. It is believed to have been brought from Vesali to Mrauk U. It was placed by King Minbin in 1535 A.D. The pillar was destroyed during the World War II. Now it has been renovated.



Koethaung Pagoda

The name means 90,000 and probably signified the number of Buddha images it was supposed to contain. To the north of the Pisei Hill at a distance of 400 yards is the Koethaung Pagoda. The pagoda stands on a plain and is surrounded by paddy fields. The upper tiers of the pagoda had disappeared. The remaining lowest tier is about 30 feet high including earth foundation. The King Mintaikkha who was the son of the King Minbin, the donor of the great Shitthaung Pagoda, built the Koethaung Pagoda in 1553 A.D.

The legend says that the pagoda was demolished and hit by a thunderbolt because the King Mintaikkha built the Koethaung Pagoda (ninety thousand images) which exceeded in number to the images of his father, King Minbin's Shitthaung Pagoda (eighty thousand images). It was unlikely. Really, the pagoda Koethaung was built in six months time by the advice of his astrologers. In building this pagoda, the workmen used both bricks and stones. Other pagodas were mostly built of pure sandstone, which had been carried from the Rakhine-coasts. The six-month's time was not long enough to collect the required number of blocks of stone. As a consequence, Koethaung was inferior in quality in materials as well as in workmanship compared to Shitthaung Pagoda.

Andaw Thein Pagoda

The Andaw Pagoda of Mrauk U means the pagoda enshrining the tooth-relic of Buddha. The pagoda is located about 86 feet from the Shittaung Pagoda in the north-east direction. Min Hla Raza was the original builder of this pagoda in 1521 A.D. Due to some damaged parts, the King of Mrauk U, Minrazagyi reconstructed this pagoda in 1596 A.D. The central tower of the shrine contains the tooth-relic of Buddha. It was originally obtained from Sri Lanka by King Minbin (1534-1542 A.D.).

Yatanarpon-Pagoda

The pagoda is located on the northern part of Andaw Thein and donated by King Min Khamaung and Queen Shin Htwe. There are lots of architectural remaining of Mrauk U time. There are seventeen smaller pagodas around the main pagoda and each one was donated by King, Queen and other royal families of Mrauk U dynasty.

Laung Bwann Brauk Pagoda

The Laungbanpyauk Pagoda stands at a distance of 500 feet to the Mokseiktaw. Minkhaungraza built the pagoda in 1525 A.D and two walls surround it.

Pitaka Taik

Pitakataik which lies close to Htupayon Pagoda The little library or Pitakataik, the Repository for the Buddhist scriptures was built in 1591 also by king Min Phalaung.

Htukkanthein Temple

Dukkanthein also called as Htukanthein or Htoekanthein, stands on a hill which is about 30 feet in height and built by King Minphalaung in 1571 A.D. Its structure is like a flat surface in the form of a drum. It is made striking from the outside by it’s a typical militaristic design, set as it is on high ground and featuring fortified walls with small windows and only one entrance.

Laymyetnha Pagoda

Laymyetnha Pagoda or "the four-faced pagoda" was built by King Minsawmon, the first king of Mrauk-U Dynasty in 1430 A.D. It is one of the five pagodas built at the beginning of the establishment of the city.

Shwe Taung Pagoda

The Shwe Daung Pagoda or the "Golden Hill Pagoda" is also believed to have been built by King Minbin between the years 1531-1553. It is one of the highest points in Mrauk U and is popular spot for dawn views, as it is the tallest in this area and can be seen as far away as 20 miles from the main Kaladan River. The hill itself is 250 feet high and is about half a mile to the south-east of the Palace Site. During the First Anglo-Burmese War, 1824-26, the Myanmar forces built earthen fortifications on this hill and mounted guns which inflicted heavy losses on the British forces. Some of these fortifications can still be seen today.

Sakya Mann Aung Pagoda

This pagoda is known to be one of the five most revered "Mann" paya of Mrauk U. King Sri Suddhamma Raja built the Sakkyar Man Aung Pagoda in A.D 1629. It is located in the south of Yadanar Man Aung Pagoda. The western gate of the pagoda is guarded by two large kneeling orgres. The other five revered "Mann" payas of Mrauk U are Lawka Man Aung, Zeenat Man Aung, Sakkya Man Aung, Mingalar Man Aung and Yadanar Man Aung.

Zina Mann Aung Pagoda

One of the “Mann” paya of Mrauk U, a beautiful temple is donated by King Sanda Thuddhamma during A.D 1652, that offers panoramic views of the surrounding hills and Lattsaykan lake.

Lattsaykan Gate

It was once one of the main gates into the city; little remains of the outer walls so this section is of particular interest. Immediately on the other side of the gate is Lattsaykan lake, a picturesque stretch of water that was Mrauk U’s main reservoir. This scenic lake is about 100 acres wide and its embankment connecting the two hill ranges has two 12ft high gates. The western gate, known as Laksaykan gate is 24ft long, 17ft high and 8ft wide. In case of an enemy raid from the south of the palace, this gate was to be used flood the lower plains in the north to defer the enemy.

Haridaung Pagoda

It is set on a hill next to a monastery, and provides a clear view of the palace site – as well as views over the temples and plains to the west.

The Myatanzaung Pagodas

The Myatanzaung Pagodas lie to the north of Laymyetnha Pagoda at a distance of 500 feet. There are two pagodas named Eastern Myatanzaung and Western Myatanzaung. These pagodas are situated on a 40 feet high hillock. Minsawmon, the King of Mrauk-U Dynasty, erected these pagodas in 1430 A.D. These two are of the same type. measuring 120 feet in circumference and 50 feet high. The main structures of these pagodas are constructed of blocks of pure sandstone. But turrets, staircases and walls were built of bricks.

The Htuparyon Pagoda

According to the local records, King Minranaung, the sixth king of MraukU Dynasty, erected Htuparyon in 1494 A.D. In the year of 1613 A.D, the King Minkhamaung and his chief Queen Shin Htway rebuilt this pagoda. The pagoda is built of stone blocks and the base is octagonal. Each of the four corners of the pagoda walls is guarded by the figure of a lion having two bodies and a head. At present, the pagoda is in ruin and neglected. But, in the golden days of Mrauk-U the Htuparyon Pagoda was a well known site for pilgrimage. Most of the kings in Mrauk-U Dynasty came to pay respects to this pagoda soon after their coronations. Traditionally, it was believed by the kings that the site was "The Land of Victory and Prosperity" and was very highly venerated.

Mrauk U Museum

A new Mrauk U museum is located near the palace site. It displays some old artifacts of Vesali, Launggret and Mrauk U periods. The bronze Buddha icons of Rakhine are equisetic in design. Various inscribed stone inscriptions in Sanskrit, Rakhine and Arabic are also displayed. Lintels coins, musical instruments, ceramic-wares are also on display. Moreover, the stone inscription of Purain Ah Song-Taung (AD-1430), Wara-Dhamma-Yar-Zar stone inscription (AD-1618) and An-Taw-Thein stone inscription (AD-1596) are also there to be studied.

ENVIRONS OF MRAUK U
Lay Myo River & Chin Villages

For a day trip from Mrauk U, is to visit some Chin ethnic minority villages. The journey upriver becomes very scenic as the valley narrows, and the visit itself will give you the opportunity to observe local traditions first hand and meet Chin villager women, known for their distinctive tattooed faces. A legend said that former Burmese Kings considered Chin women to be the most beautiful of all the ethnic tribes. They would travel to the Chin State looking for women to bring back to the capitol as their concubines. Chin girls, from the age of 13, began to tattoo their faces to make them ugly and to prevent them from being taken to the Burmese palace. Though this tattooing practice has mostly stopped, you can see the tattoos on the older generations. Cruise along the scenic Lay Myo River, visit 2-3 villages and arrive back before dark.

Wethali (Vesali)

Now a small village but fifteen hundred years ago, Wethali was the capital of an ancient Arakan kingdom. While temples are probably buried under the many mounds that dot the area, the only thing to see today is the layout of the palace and a statue known as the Great Image of Hsu Taung Pre. Wethali is a pleasant one –the journey from Mrauk U take two hour by car or whole day bicycle round trip.

Mahamuni Paya

This pagoda is 40 km north of Mrauk U and once housed the Mahamuni Buddha that now resides in the Mahamuni Paya in Mandalay. There are several ancient artifacts on view at the Paya and at the small museum near the shrine.

Sittwe

Sittwe is the Capital city of the Rakhine State, and situated on an estuarial island at the confluence of the Kaladan River, Myu River, and Lay Myo River. Sittwe wholesales fish market, museum and strand road for view point are the places of interest in the city.

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